China suffered a huge setback in its campaign to qualify for the next World Cup final after a 1-0 loss to Syria late last week.
Despite home field advantage, and controlling the ball for most of the match, China was unable to score. Instead, Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Mawas scored what proved to be the winning goal, dashing China’s World Cup dreams for yet another round of the tournament.
The Chinese press was not particularly sympathetic. The People’s Daily wrote, “In the wake of the disappointing match, many Chinese soccer fans have pointed out the sad irony that the world’s second largest economy, with its huge population, could not beat a smaller, war torn nation.”
But while China can’t achieve victory on the pitch, they can contribute to world peace off of the pitch. Following the loss, a WeChat article that went viral claimed the 1-0 Chinese loss had resulted in a 48-hour ceasefire agreement between the Syrian army and the rebels.
“Do not call the Chinese national soccer team useless. They have made a great contribution to world peace and shielded Syrian civilians from more violence. This is what we call the spirit of sports,” the People’s Daily wrote. However CCTV quickly debunked the article, stating that fighting in Aleppo never stopped before or after the match.
China’s national team had already lost 3-2 to South Korea and had a 0-0 draw with Iran. They were desperate for a win against one of the worst teams in the FIFA World Cup Asian Zone qualifiers. The loss means that China’s chances at advancing are greatly diminished as they aren’t likely to win against other teams in a competitive division that includes Qatar and Uzbekistan.
China has only qualified for the World Cup finals in 2002 when rivals South Korea were guaranteed a spot as hosts. Even then, the Chinese national team won no games, and scored no goals.
A new initiative by Chinese President Xi Jinping has given soccer a national mandate which will be enforced in school curricula and implemented soccer academies throughout the country.
As for the Syrian national team, they celebrated their victory by shopping for discount clothes at a Xi’an mall.